Objectives/Hypothesis: Rehabilitation following head and neck cancer surgery has steadily moved into the outpatient realm and become dependent on caregivers with no formal medical background (lay caregivers.) Satisfactory rehabilitation and quality of life (QOL) depend on successful relationships between patients and the lay caregivers. This study evaluates the QOL assessments of patients by themselves and their primary lay caregivers before head and neck surgery. Study Design: Institutional Review Board-approved study using validated QOL assessment instrument. Materials and Methods: The preoperative QOL status in 50 patients undergoing extensive head and neck surgery was evaluated using the self-administered Medical Outcomes Survey Short Form 36 (SF-36). The patient's primary lay caregiver (spouse, child, or friend) completed a similar questionnaire evaluating the patient's status. Results: Thirty-three (66%) questionnaires were returned. Twenty-five (50%) questionnaire sets were successfully completed by both parties and employable for comparison. Sixty percent of the caregivers were within the 90% confidence interval of the patient's assessment for six or more of the eight parameters evaluated by the SF-36. Likewise, caregiver assessments for specific parameters were consistently congruent with patient evaluation, except for the parameters of bodily pain and general health, for which caregivers demonstrated a trend for overrating pain and underestimating general health. Caregivers of the same generation as the patient demonstrated significantly higher congruence (P = .007). Similarly, a trend for higher congruence was noted in patients with recurrent disease. Conclusions: The importance of the lay caregiver has increased in the era of greater outpatient rehabilitation. This pilot study indicates that QOL assessment by lay caregivers may be examined with existing instruments and highlights QOL parameters critical to both the head and neck surgery patient and his or her primary lay caregiver.
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